"The only chance John McCain has to win," Mr. Right announced in response to some mumbled question from Mr. Peepers, "is if the election turns into a referendum on Barack Obama. If it does, there's no way Obama will win."
"But why can't the election be a referendum on McCain," I asked.
His answer was that, in a way, McCain has already been rejected, or found wanting. "He wouldn't even be the Republican nominee if there hadn't been open voting in so many primaries," he said. This is a point he's made before. The newer point seemed to be that people needed to decide whether to hold their noses and vote for McCain. Mr. Right was convinced that proper exposure of Obama would persuade enough people to do as he will.
"Actually," I pressed him, "given that there are at least half a dozen candidates on the ballot, why should the election be a referendum on any one candidate?"
"Because at some point you have to face reality," he answered. "None of those third parties are going to be credible until they start winning local elections."
"Yeah, but even at the local level you're still going to face that same self-fulfilling logic that they can't win. Of course they can't win until somebody votes for them!"
Mr. Right has done little but gripe about McCain since the Arizonan pulled ahead in the Republican primaries. You'd think he'd rather vote for someone who comes closer to his own views, though nobody really fits the bill. He's spoken sympathetically about Bob Barr a few times, but is implacably fatalistic about Barr's prospects. While noting that Barr polls as high as 5 or 6 percent in some states, and is hurting McCain in those places, he also understands that Barr has no money to get on national TV. In any event, Mr. Right is no Libertarian. He may agree with them on economics, but he's too conservative on social issues and still too much in favor of the war to really go that way. The Republican party, McCain aside, is really the best fit for him, especially since he's bought into the Bipolarchic logic that requires him to vote Republican in order to avert the worst outcome, in his mind: Obama's election.
Like McCain himself, Mr. Right thinks we haven't learned everything about Obama's relationship with Bill Ayers, the erstwhile Weatherman. Not that he thinks further investigation is necessary; it's really enough for him that Obama sat on boards with Ayers -- enough to disqualify Obama.
"So are you going to boycott the whole city of Chicago?" I asked him, "I hear that Mayor Daley has said favorable things about Ayers."
"No, I wont," he replied, "Nor do I want to see the university blown up for hiring his terrorist wife [Bernadine Dohrn]. But people should not be willing to associate with an unrepentant terrorist like Ayers under any circumstance, no matter how casual. I can't support someone who won't dissociate himself from such a person. That's just the way I think."
As usual with Mr. Right, the subject turned to double standards. "Admit it," he challenged me, "You know that if John McCain or Sarah Palin associated in any way with someone who was involved in bombing abortion clinics, that we wouldn't hear the end of it in the media, and they wouldn't have a chance of winning. Why isn't there the same outrage over Ayers?"
"Maybe most people don't consider him a present danger," I suggested, "The last time I looked, the Weather Underground wasn't still plotting to bomb places."
"Well, it may not bother you, but it bothers me," he concluded.
I'll spare you his related comments on Obama's Marxism, except to note that he has corrected himself somewhat on that subject. I once heard him declare that Karl Marx was Obama's hero. I challenged him to cite Obama's own words on that point or never say it again. Now he is content to say that "all" of Obama's heroes are Marxists, which is equally ludicrous but neither so insulting to my intellect nor so outrageous even for him that I care to bother calling him out on it. Sometimes it's best to let the stupid be, especially when you know they're not persuading anybody.
I suppose it's also worth noting that Governor Palin gave an interview this week in which she showed herself reluctant to label abortion clinic bombers as terrorists. To be fair, she did say that clinic bombing would be "unacceptable ... on our watch," but one wonders about her reticence. Had I known about this before I talked to Mr. Right, I would have asked his opinion. Since he's rabidly anti-abortion, I'm not sure if I could predict his response.